In official narratives of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, the teen genius who designed the earliest version of the virtual reality headset, is a central figure. But Luckey was notably not among a procession of presenters -- including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg -- at a conference for Oculus developers held Thursday. The event comes just two weeks after revelations that Luckey had donated thousands to a political organization that supports Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Zuckerberg and Luckey's fellow Oculus co-founders Brendan Iribe and Nate Mitchell were among those who took the stage at the Oculus Connect developer conference in San Jose. That made Luckey's absence all the more apparent.
So did the large role Luckey has played in past events and press coverage. Luckey spoke at the 2015 edition of the conference. He was also made available to speak to Bloomberg Businessweek alongside Iribe and Zuckerberg in a magazine profile this summer. He was also featured on the cover of Time last year, and he has spoken with numerous journalists throughout the years.
His exclusion on Thursday suggests Facebook and Oculus are hoping Luckey will keep a low-profile throughout the remainder of election season. The company did not address the incident at all nor did Luckey's name come up at any point during the presentation. Oculus did not say why Luckey was missing from the keynote.
Already, Luckey's controversial comments have cost his company as many as 5,000 unit sales of the Rift virtual reality headset, according to an estimate by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Muster, the Wall Street Journal said Thursday. That's a big dent considering sales of the Rift have gotten off to a slow start.
"We had a little bit of a slow start earlier this year with Rift, but now that's rolling out quickly," said Zuckerberg at the event.
Luckey's political activities were revealed last month by The Daily Beast, which reported that the virtual reality entrepreneur had donated $10,000 to Nimble America, the pro-Trump group that uses memes to disparage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Luckey confirmed he wrote several posts for the group under the pseudonym of NimbleRichMan, The Daily Beast said.
Following the report, Luckey posted on Facebook to apologize for the incident and deny parts of the report. Luckey said he did not write posts by NimbleRichMan and that he was not a Trump support but rather a Libertarian who planned to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
"Still, my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I'm sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community," Luckey said.
At the keynote, Oculus made a number of announcements. Zuckerberg said his virtual reality company has begun building prototypes of standalone virtual reality headsets that don't need the help of smartphones or computers to operate as current headsets require.
Iribe also announced the release of the Touch, the upcoming Oculus motion controls, on Dec. 6. Pre-orders of the gadgets will kick off on Oct. 10 for $199. Additionally, Oculus announced a number of new games. Facebook, meanwhile, said it is committing $250 million toward helping the community of virtual reality developers grow.